How Many Lumens Are Needed to Light a Room?
What to look for when selecting LED recessed lights.
This kitchen uses a combination of indirect LED lighting (located inside the box beams), recessed LED fixtures, LED puck lights and pendant lights to create a very usable and inviting space.
We are going to be using all 4-inch LED recessed lighting in our home and the output for the LEDs is a bit different than for standard incandescent recessed lights, so we are working to determine how many of the LED fixtures we need in each space. My feeling is that we are going to need to increase the number of recessed fixtures per room. Do you have a list you could share of the recommended lumens per square foot for different residential spaces?

You may have read my rants in earlier columns about using a grid pattern of recessed fixtures as a substitute for proper lighting design. The best way is to start with a furniture plan to see where the illumination is needed. These recessed fixtures should be adjustable and only used for accent lighting of art, tabletops, plants, sculpture etc. They shouldn't be used for general illumination or over seating areas since they cast very hard shadows. You then layer this accent lighting with other sources of illumination that provide decorative, task and ambient light. The illumination for kitchens should be just as thoughtful. They are today’s gathering place for casual entertaining, so the lighting should be as inviting as the other rooms.

The world is changing quickly as LEDs are becoming more accepted by the general public. Part of the learning process is to not look at wattage but to look at lumen output. Up until LEDs were introduced, I would normally use a recessed adjustable low voltage fixture with a 50W MR16 lamp. These halogen lamps produce 800 lumens. Make sure that the MR16 LED lamps or integrated LED components select have a similar or higher lumen output.

Be aware that LEDs do not get warmer in color when dimmed, which is what incandescent lighting does, and what we are used to experiencing. I tend to add a warming filter to our LED products to change the color temperature from 2700K or 3000K to 2400K. This is the color of dimmed incandescent. Here is the big news: Lucifer Lighting is going to be introducing is a recessed adjustable fixture with integral LED components that will give you the ability to set the color temperature within each fixture or appear to get warmer in color when dimmed, while maintaining a high CRI. I think that this is where the future of LED lighting is headed.

Randall Whitehead lighting designer
Randall Whitehead, IALD

Randall Whitehead, IALD, is a professional lighting designer and author. His books include "Residential Lighting, A Practical Guide." Whitehead has worked on projects worldwide, appeared on the Discovery Channel, HGTV and CNN, and he is regular guest on Martha Stewart Living Radio. Visit his website for more information on books, upcoming seminars and the latest lighting trends.

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